My book, Jesus Crushes Sin, is described as “a down-to-earth, Jesus-centred holiness for those who keep losing.” This tag-line explains why I wrote the book, and why I think I had to write it.
For many years I suffered with a particular sin issue in my life. The reason why I don’t really go into the details of what it was, either here or in the book, is because I want the book to encourage people with all sorts of issues with sin. Some might think, “Well, his struggle is different to mine.” I don’t think that’s true. I really think that the book helps anyone with any sin issue to rethink the way we approach God, and see Christianity. In fact, I think that even those people who are “winning” against sin ought to read it, especially if they are preachers or teachers or pastors or some kind of leader in the church.
This is because, by and large, we’ve made Christianity for winners, when in fact it’s for the poor and the weak and the weary. But it’s also for the winners, because the winners might not realise just how badly steeped in sin they actually are: the much more subtle, and much more dangerous, sin of self-righteousness.
To break the tag-line down, this book essentially tries to uncover:
A down-to-earth approach to holiness. A lot of writing and preaching on this topic overly idealistic, exhorting us to be this or that, to do this or that, and to basically pull up our bootstraps. The goal of holiness, as it were, is put so far away for most of us that we despair when, after many years, we realise we’re just not getting there. Is there a there, anyway? We might begin to question that there is! But instead, what we need is a theology of holiness that tells it like it is (down-to-earth) without leaving it as it is (focusing us on Jesus).
A Jesus-centred holiness. Much writing and preaching on this topic is about you. How well are you doing? Have you put your holiness programme into place? Don’t you realise that you need to clean up before the Holy Spirit pours out on you? Don’t you know that God won’t fellowship with an unholy vessel? So you better sort yourself out! These sorts of approaches make holiness into some sort of self-improvement human programme and take our eyes off of Jesus, fully God and fully man, who is more down to earth with this topic than most of us are.
An approach for those who keep losing. If you’ve found the holiness programmes, the theories and the formulas and the disciplines and all that stuff is something you just keep sucking at, welcome to the club. If, like me, you find you keep losing at the Christian (supposed) life and the good news just isn’t so good anymore, then it may be that the “good news” you’ve been hearing isn’t actually the “good news” at all! What we have today is a sanitized Christianity, not a sanctified one – which is why it so often feels like it runs out of power. But the scriptures and Christian theology, when you dig deep, tell a different story.
Here’s some news for those who might not know: my newest foray into the non-fiction, Christian living / theology territory, releases next week Wednesday, 3 February. It’s called Jesus Crushes Sin: A down-to-earth, Jesus-centred holiness for those who keep losing.
It’s a book for the losers in Christian living. Those of us who know what God expects of us, but find we just can’t do it. We never quite seem to reach the place where we know we’re supposed to be. And the “good news” doesn’t seem to be so good anymore.
When I started writing I wanted to release my Christian-specific books for free to the public, and print versions at cost. I just think that kind of stuff should be free. But, of course, a writer has to also make a living. Plus, many people have told me that they actually want to support me financially, but if I keep doing everything for free they can’t really do that, unless I take donations (which I’ll feel a bit weird about, to be honest).
Over the years I’ve never quite known what to do. But now I think I’ve finally found a way to do both, and why on earth I never realised it at first, I don’t know.
I’ll be offering up the ebook and PDF versions of Jesus Crushes Sin at my website for free download from 3 Feb.
The paperback version (I’m still busy with the printers) will be made available at just above cost, to give me some margin for calculation errors (I’ve learned that there are all sorts of sneaky costs that come in with print at various stages of getting it to people). It’ll be available directly from a distributor’s website. The link will be made available here when it’s all ready. ** UPDATE ** – it’s now available for preorder.
Those who want to support me financially and want the ebook can purchase it from their favourite platforms. All the main distributor links will be on my site. ** UPDATE ** now available for preorder.
From February 3rd, you can download the free ebook here at my website.
I’m really excited about this book as I’ve been working on it for about three years, on and off! It’s finally ready, and I think what it has inside is going to be super helpful for people who struggle to live the Christian calling.
NCMI World Equip 2015 has been so very encouraging. If you don’t know what it is, check out the website. NCMI works into over 80 nations and the World Equip brings churches across the world together to make much of Jesus in one place, during one week. I’m super grateful and so privileged to be a part of this amazing team who work so hard at making Jesus known all over the world.
Seeing guys from Columbia all the way to New Zealand, The U.S all the way to Mongolia and Singapore and further, and from the U.K. all the way to South Africa, get together in one place with one heart and one passion and one God is really pretty incredible. This is Ephesians 2:14,15 in real-time, where one of the promises of God is to bring people together with no dividing walls between them. We often talk about such things in theory. Philosophers love to wax lyrical about this sort of thing. But no philosophy in this world seems to really do this – there’s no philosophy or idea or political theory out there that really seems to be able to bring people together. We can pump out as many world peace songs as we like, but it really doesn’t ever amount to anything. We can speak about how we’re all children of the earth and are all brothers and sisters of humanity, but that still doesn’t seem to change anything. Politicians can tell the nations to just get along forever and ever, but it never really amounts to much, does it? Quite frankly, this requires a miracle of God, and that’s precisely what he has done and continues to do through Christ’s work in our world, who works through the Church. That’s why “He Himself is our peace” (Eph 2:14). Or as Colossians 3:11 says, “Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.”
Holiness is only found in Christ
One of the amazing things about these particular scriptures is that the focus is on Jesus and what he has done, and does today, rather than on some ministry or idea or on our own ability to be moral and good and righteous. I think this is an important point, and one of the themes I’m seeing come up during the World Equip is the theme of holiness. Here’s the thing about holiness, however – it is only found in Christ and not in ourselves. We have to die and have our lives ‘hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3). Scripture often expounds on this truth before exhorting us to live lives of holiness. Colossians 3:3 continues into Colossians 3:5, which talks about living a holy life. Holiness is something God gives to us as a gift, and the ability to shake off temptation and give up anything that has a hold on us, is all a gift of God. That ability is never truly our own, but only becomes a reality when we are ‘in Christ’. Being ‘in Christ’ is something God has done, but it is something that we have to live in. The Christian life is not one where we try and be moral and righteous, but rather one where we make every effort to remain in him and only out of that is there any holiness and righteousness at all.
Which is why a focus on Jesus is so important
The main theme of NCMI is to be completely obsessed with Jesus. Tyrone Daniel, who leads this team, has been so emphatic about that. A focus on Jesus makes for a holy people, and a holy people are a people who go into all the world and make disciples of the nations. For ‘holy’ actually means to be set apart for God’s special purposes (the Hebrew word Kadosh) and we’ve been made into God’s ‘holy people’ to ‘proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light (see 1 Peter 2:9). We cannot exist for the mission of God because that mission will undo us. The Gospel is not a message where we tell people to tell people to tell people that they must tell people, because there is no message in that! The Gospel is about Jesus!
We also cannot exist for holiness because holiness will undo us. We exist for Jesus, and once we truly exist for Jesus alone, the Holy One, then all these other things fall in place. In Christ we are not only holy positionally (declared holy by God) but become holy in our life experience – and as we become more holy we become more missional, more apostolic, because holiness and God’s apostolic call are tied together. God himself is an apostolic God of perfect love – and the more we live in Him, the more that perfect love of God lives through us. Holiness is God’s love acting in us and then through us, giving Him the glory.
The big challenge for me this week is the question: am I truly obsessed with Jesus? We’ll all say “Yes” very quickly. But we have to pause and consider. We have to ask God to tell us the truth. A love of singing songs to Jesus does not mean that we are truly obsessed with him. Even a love for the scriptures does not mean we are truly obsessed with Jesus. This is a much deeper question than we realise. How much of ministry and life and everything I do is actually about me? Rather, he must increase and I must decrease. (John 3:3.) I know that if I become too obsessed with Jesus I’m probably going to look like a bit of a fool to others, and that is, I think, one thing that scares me. Yet we are to be fools for Christ! (1 Corinthians 4:10.) And then we get Christ’s very wisdom! (1 Corinthians 1:30.) Let our very lives, then, be hidden with Christ in God!
That’s the key phrase that changed everything for me. What is perfect love? It is God’s love. All of sin is the opposite of love. Even private sin, that we think only affects ourselves, like watching pornography. The question is: Can I live in perfect love? Can perfect love live through me? Because if God’s love can live through me then surely my sin will start to get rooted out of my heart?
In Dealing with Addictive Sin: How I Came to See Holiness in a Brand New Way pt 2 I highlighted how 1 Thessalonians 5:23 began to make me see that God promises that he will finish a completing work of holiness in this life. What does holiness look like, ultimately? It looks like Jesus – everything we know about him; his character, his life, his sacrifice, his resurrection. Holiness looks like perfect love. If Jesus lives in me, as the scriptures promise, perfect love lives in me. Because God is love. (1 John 4:8.) But I also want him, perfect love, to live through me.
And that’s the hard part.
But if there is a promise that he will, in fullness, in this life, then everything changes. And indeed, I’ve come to see that there is.
The grand narrative in this is one of inheritance. Throughout all the scriptures, God promises an inheritance to his people, that they come to in this life. Here are some details from the scriptures of what this inheritance looks like:
2 Peter 1:4
Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire.
Hebrews 4:1; 9
Therefore we must be wary that, while the promise of entering his rest remains open, none of you may seem to have come short of it… Consequently a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God.
We can see two things here: one, our inheritance in Christ consists of becoming partakers of the divine nature. Two, that our inheritance consists of rest. I could quote a lot more but these will do. The crux of my “seeing holiness in a new way” is this: that we come into this inheritance in this life. Sure, there are things for the next life that we can also call our inheritance (like new bodies and a new heaven and a new earth) but the argument in Hebrews 3 and 4 shows us that God promises this rest as “long as it is called ‘Today,'” (Hebrews 3:13) and we’re exhorted to not harden our hearts ‘today’ in unbelief because the promise is coming. Just like Israel entered into their inheritance (the promised land) so we will enter ours (holiness of heart and mind). 1 Thessalonians 5:23 shows us that the plan is to keep us in this inheritance unto the return of Christ.
When I came to this conclusion my life changed. Because I finally found out what faith is really about – a relying on Christ’s work in me to make me into a partaker of Christ’s very own nature, in this life, so that he could live his perfect love through me. It no longer became about God ’empowering me’ to live the godly live, it became about God living through me to live the godly life. It became about, to put it in a crude way, being possessed by God to love his possession: people.
Instead of life being one big battle against what seems to be a dualistic nature within me (it isn’t really, but more on that some other time) it suddenly made sense that the time through the wilderness of sin, even addictive sin (borrowing from the narrative of Israel in the wilderness) was something God has done to get rid of my unbelief and my reliance on myself and my work for my own sanctification and my own self-righteousness, and rely on Christ’s full work (not just his death, but his life, his birth, his resurrection) for my sanctification. As justification is by faith, sanctification is by faith, and so is missional living. As perfect love lives in and through me, my very heart is really being changed, and the change will eventually be completed in this life, as far as it’s possible for it to be done in this body of mine – and that ‘far as possible’ is very far indeed!
For in his incarnation, Jesus brought man and the divine together; in my life in Him, he brings me and the divine together. My life can look like his in his humanity here on earth. In his death, Jesus dispossessed Satan’s hold on man so that He could make us into his very own possession. In his resurrection, Jesus was victorious over death and sin, so that in my life – in this life – my intimate union with Him would bring the same into actual reality.
It all put scripture together in such a cohesive way. But also, it brought great peace and joy to me in ways I can’t fully translate onto paper. I finally realised one other thing: for many years I wondered why, after having the most amazing experiences with God that shortly afterwards I would sin in some of the worst ways. Wasn’t God’s presence supposed to sustain me? Only now did I realise that this conundrum had made me reject God’s presence because I could not believe, due to how my old theology framed my experience, that he really could fulfill the deepest desire of my heart that he himself seemed to give me when I was in his presence: holiness. God’s presence would make me deeply long to be like him and be with him, and the Bible confirmed that I should expect that, but it seemed that holiness was never something I could really have in this life – so why would I want to get into God’s presence only to get desires that will never be fulfilled until I die? God’s presence kept leading me into despair, not joy! So I had started to avoid his presence. Rather than get back into this conundrum I had secretly decided that I was far happier living on the fringes of his glorious love.
But now I realised I could have my desire. And my prayer changed to “Lord, give it all to me! I’ll have as much of you as I can possibly have in this life! Take me to the very fringes of what is possible in this life! To the very edge of how much I can have of your holy presence without dying!”
Because I realised that God, indeed, saves to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25). And my relationship with Christ, with myself, and with others has not been the same. A heart of worship returned to me. And, interestingly enough, so did my enjoyment of other things that I used to enjoy (such as music and nature and reading fiction).
If I could put it this way: I came back to the ordinary life. This has helped to deal with guilt and helping me to accept sin as normal to the human experience while, at the same time, knowing that a day will come when I will grow out of it because of the Holy Spirit’s work.
“God is love and all who live in love live in God and God lives in them. And as we live in God our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgement but we can face Him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world.” (1 John 4:15-17, NLT)
Hitting deadlines as a writer isn’t always easy. I was supposed to finish my supernatural thriller The Butcher’s Shadow by June this year, after which I was going to pick up writing the sequel to my fantasy book When Twins War. Neither of those happened, because we writers tend to get easily distracted. I picked up the work on my forthcoming book on sin and holiness, Holy Sin, which I’ve managed to finish but still need to edit. I also got distracted with revising my first proper book, Single (which I wrote in 2004) after someone asked me for a copy and I was a bit embarrassed to give them the original!
But those of you who were enjoying the weekly updates of The Butcher’s Shadow serial are asking (and wondering) “What happened? Are we ever going to see what the heck happens?” The answer is yes. With renewed vigour and inspiration, here are my plans for the next twelve months in writing:
1. Finish The Butcher’s Shadow (due the end of this year)
2. Finish my complete revision of my book Single within the next month.
I’m almost there. I’ve thus far managed to edit down the original manuscript from 90,000 words to 58,000 words! My goal is to edit it down to 50,000 or less words. It’s amazing how I’ve learned, since 2004, to say things more clearly! The original work is ultra-verbose.
As its title suggest, Single (I might give it a new title) is about how to enjoy your singleness as a Christian. Marriage isn’t the be-all and end-all of our existence! I’m also going to look for a publisher for this book.
3. Finish my book Holy Sin within the next three months
“Holiness for losers, washouts, and other people who don’t cut it.” That’s the subtitle for this book and it pretty much sums it up. All that’s left for this one is an edit and then a perusal by pastors and those I respect to give me honest feedback and their theological concerns. I’m also going to look for a publisher for this one.
4. Begin writing my next instalment in The Rise of the Kings (and finish next year)
It’s high-time I write the sequel to When Twins War and get busy with my five-book fantasy series. This is a series I’ve been working on since I was a kid – and it needs to come to life!
With a rich and layered fantasy world akin to the classics, When Twins War mingles traditional Western fantasy with middle-eastern adventure and African folklore. It’s something of a mix between The Lord of the Rings and Arabian Nights, with an African edge.
5. Begin planning for a sequel to Treasure Island (still in concept stages)
Yes, that’s right – a sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island. Since I became a fan of Monkey Island when I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to write a piratey tale. I’m thinking of bringing a supernatural twist to it. That might make some fans of the original upset, but it might make some others interested! We’ll see. One thing that Stevenson’s tale always lacked, in my opinion, was a good ole ghost ship!
Will I manage?
Well, it’s good to set goals. These aren’t impossible. When I consider how much writing I’ve actually done this year (ghostwriting for clients; collaborative writing for Cornerstone Church’s resources) this is possible. But motivation is always another story – especially during Winter! Now that it’s Summer, things are rather different!
In my last post in this series: How I Came to see Holiness in a Brand New Way, pt 1, I briefly wrote about how my struggles with sin became a faith crisis. Addictive sin leads you into despair and makes you question every aspect of your beliefs. You wonder: is there something I’m supposed to know that’s supposed to help me get over this? Why is this easier for others but not for me?
As a Christian, an addiction to pornography led me to asking: Does Christianity have any real power? Can Jesus really save me from my sin? Or is Christianity just about forgiveness and then trying as hard as you can not to do it again?
I worked this out by doing lots and lots of reading. My views on holiness became mainly Puritan in their construct. But while my outward conduct changed in a big way, what I couldn’t quite change was what kept happening inside whenever temptations came or someone even just spoke about their own addictions. In short, I felt like my desires would never change – but I resolved that that’s just the way it is. Martin Luther was particularly helpful for me.
“No man is to despair of salvation just because he is aware of the lust of the flesh. Let him be aware of it so long as he does not yield to it. The passion of lust, wrath, and other vices may shake him, but they are not to get him down. Sin may assail him, but he is not to welcome it. Yes, the better Christian a man is, the more he will experience the heat of the conflict. This explains the many expressions of regret in the Psalms and in the entire Bible…. Everybody is to determine his peculiar weakness and guard against it. Watch and wrestle in spirit against your weakness. Even if you cannot completely overcome it, at least you ought to fight against it.” – Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians.
In his writings, Luther says a lot about the difference between having a desire and giving into a desire. This is fairly standard faire in Christian theology. I eventually decided to write a book called Holy Sinwhere I was going to contend that Jesus has already made us holy when he saved us (1 Corinthians 6:11) and therefore, we ought not to worry about how holy we really are but ought to just keep on fighting.
But when I found 1 Thessalonians 5:23,24 I was stumped. I simply couldn’t find any way to read this in any other way except to read a promise in it that at once both scared me and excited me. Could it be true?
1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NET) Now may the God of peace himself make you completely holy and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this.
He will in fact do what? He will, in fact, make you completely holy. When? I checked other translations – the word ‘at [the coming]’ is often translated as ‘unto’ (Geneva Bible, KJV) – which is the same as ‘until’ – or translated as ‘for’ in other Bibles. This indicated, to me, that he would make us completely holy before he comes again. (The way the verse is written would indicate that even if you didn’t use ‘unto’ or ‘for’). The context of the scripture certainly implies that while the Thessalonians were holy and set apart for God, God would make them completely holy. (In my forthcoming book, Holy Sin I go into this scripture in more detail.)
I had previously read in John Wesley’s A Plain Account of Christian Perfection this:
“A Christian is so far perfect, as not to commit sin. This is the glorious privilege of every Christian, yea, though he be but a babe in Christ. But it is only of grown Christians it can be affirmed, they are in such a sense perfect, as, Secondly to be freed from evil thoughts and evil tempers. First, from evil or sinful thoughts… If, therefore, the heart be no longer evil, then evil thoughts no longer proceed out of it: For a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit… a deliverance from inward as well as from outward sin.”
When I had first read this in Wesley’s book I was shocked. I had simply never heard this anywhere else before. I had thought he was just a well-known evangelist, but where did this come from? It was so different to anything else I had ever heard at all. In truth, it all seemed crazy. I read through the entire book and found it encouraging but perplexing. I wondered if it may be true – but decided that it probably wasn’t. Then months later I read 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24 and realised: this sounds like what Wesley was saying! But could it be true? Could it be that God would sanctify me completely? Wholly? Entirely?
I immediately researched this crazy notion. What I found was a whole new world I had simply never ever heard about. Not even the Methodists I knew (John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist church, for those that don’t know) had ever told me about this. In all my years of studying and learning and reading, I had simply never heard of this. I wondered why. Then I realised it’s because what it is promising seems so far out of reach and so absolutely amazing that it’s too difficult to believe. When I checked out what some of my favourite writers had to say about it (for many I had to dig deep) I discovered that it’s been something that’s been generally looked down upon.
Well that piqued my interest. I know I’m interested in heresies since it’s my job to know as a Christian writer, but was this really a heresy, as some called it?
Well, not wanting to be seen as crazy, I kept it all to myself and decided that if all these people who I respected so much didn’t see this in the Bible then it couldn’t be there. There must be some other way to read 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24 and many other scriptures that looked like they could be saying something different than I thought they had before.
So I checked to see if there was any other way of reading it. I read plenty of explanations. I even asked one particular well-known and respected American evangelical who had come to visit my church what he thought. He told me he had actually been brought up in the teaching of ‘entire sanctification’ (what it’s commonly called) but he had changed his mind on it. But I found his explanations less than straightforward.
Then I started seeing it all over the Bible. I had heard that 1 John was Wesley’s favourite book, so I decided I would read it and see why that would be. 1 John is a difficult book and I’ve always found it particularly hard. But suddenly the book completely changed. I read it and read it and read it and couldn’t believe it. It seemed, that, in fact, you could see this there. Perhaps it was true! God wants to do a work in us where he will change ourdesires to be completely for him – where he will take out the root of sin and not just the guilt of sin (as Wesley put it). Where he will sanctify us completely! Where all those old desires will be gone and only the new remain! Where we will actually have victory in our battle with sin and will actually find ourselves in a place where those old desires mean nothing to us any more. Not in the next life but in this life.
I still found it difficult to believe. But yet, I knew that, if it was true, it was good news! And if it was good news, could it be wrong? Because the Gospel is good news. I also knew that, if it was true, it would sort out several issues in my spiritual walk and it would explain several other experiences and plenty of difficult scriptures.
A journey of many, many years comes to a solid foundation to work from.
I don’t generally come to conclusions quickly when it comes to theology. It’s taken me years to decide where I sit on many things. And I’m fine with changing my mind, so I’m not very dogmatic. The subject of holiness, however, has probably been the central driving factor of most of my theological searching.
That might not be obvious when you look at what I’ve blogged about and written over the years. It may seem like I view the subject as an afterthought. That’s because, in the background, it’s been the “niggling factor” of my Christianity; the one piece of theology that has haunted my faith for over a decade; that has shot my faith into dizzying heights of joy and, in the very next instant, crushed it into the dark soil of despair.
The reason why is because so much of the truth of Jesus rides on this one fact: Can you, Jesus, sort out my inward sin? Those horrible thoughts… those temptations that are so easy to fall into… that little bit of jealousy… or that little bit of superiority. When you begin to realise just how sinful you are, despair is lurking around the corner – which is precisely why so many people, including Christian teachers and pastors etc., avoid the issue. These days, we sugar coat the topic with motivational talks, positive thinking, modern liberal-leaning theology, or hyper-grace hermeneutics.
When you realise that you’re pretty much incapable of sorting out your internal life – or that your capabilities only go so far – you have to either accept that this is life, or that some miracle need to happen to change it. But what does God promise? Does he promise the forgiveness of sins and that’s it? Does he promise the ability to sort it out? Does he want to sort it out by His power? And, to what degree will He sort it out?
I realise not everyone is a loser like me when it comes to holiness. There are some pretty strong people out there, even in my circle of friends. They battle with only the “little” sins, such as a bit of ambition (which they fight); a bit of gossip (which they fight); or just a bit of looking too long at a girl. But they’re able to keep themselves in check and never really move into big-sin zone. They don’t live their lives looking for affirmation from others (ambition and gossip) and they’re able to easily say no to pornography when temptation comes.
Me, not so much. I battled with pornography for practically a decade. I wanted to be a rock star and be a big deal. And I battled with depression and anxiety as a result. Depression has largely gone away in my life, anxiety hasn’t.
So what’s my point? My point is that it’s not until you struggle with the big sins, with the not-so-subtle ones, and you realise that despite all your strength and your desire to do what you know is better; and despite all your intentions; you still fall, badly (not just “a little”) that you start to seriously ask: Can Christ’s power save me from my sin?Not just forgive me; not just give me power to say no sometimes (or even most of the time); but really, truly, save me?
“Save” as in, well, SAVE. Bring me out of it. Or, rather, bring it out of me.
Does God promise rest from the endless, despairing battle with sin in this life? Or does rest only come when they put us six feet underground and talk about whether or not we loved enough in this life? These are the questions I think every Christian has to face sooner or later, and reconcile with the answers.
All my theological studies around this question led me to certain conclusions, and for the longest time my conclusion was that life will always be a mixture of victory and defeat and as long as you’re fighting against sin you will be OK.
I was reluctant to admit it to myself, but I found this conclusion unliveable. I tried to work it out positively. Martin Luther’s theology drew me as the most encouraging way of dealing with this – and so I eventually decided to write a book on it, to both help me put together my thoughts on holiness in a systematic way, and help the many others I know feel their Christian life is nothing but a slog and fight every day (or, at least, most days).
Once I decided to write the book (but hadn’t started) I – for some reason – gained an interest in John Wesley. I don’t know why. It was like something was drawing me there. I just felt I wanted to know more about the guy.
What I found out stunned me. But it didn’t convince me. I spoke to a few friends about it and came out thinking that his views on holiness seemed all rather strange. I came to the conclusion that Wesley was probably wrong – in fact, I realised that I could trace his theology to the hard-lined, spitting preacher, pentecostal law-holiness stuff many of us have been exposed to. This made me reject it.
But as I got my book going and got a few chapters in and needed to start addressing the scriptures in my book, I came across 1 Thessalonians 5:23. And it was there where I put my keyboard down and couldn’t write for months. Because, what I read there – this time, when I really read it and read it again, and again – didn’t make any sense at all. Yet, it sounded strangely familiar…